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Perry Visits New Hampshire With 2016 In Mind

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (CBSDFW.COM/AP) - Gov. Rick Perry is testing his presidential prospects with a series of events in New Hampshire this weekend, as he defiantly dismisses a recent indictment and attempts to convince voters that he is an improved version of the 2012 candidate who stumbled badly.

Perry is scheduled to be in the key early voting state on Friday and Saturday, where he was to meet top Republicans and attend at least six events, including one sponsored by the conservative political group Americans For Prosperity Foundation.

Perry was indicted by a grand jury in Austin, on charges stemming from his veto last summer of state funds for public corruption prosecutors. He pleaded not guilty on Tuesday and has said that he is confident that the indictments will be exposed as nothing but a politically motivated attempt at retaliation.

So far, the indictment — and Perry’s response — appear to be galvanizing New Hampshire Republicans, according to Steve Duprey, a GOP national committee member and former chairman of the state party. “I think that he is taking the right approach, that it’s wrong, unjust and political,” said Duprey. “Indicting the Governor for vetoing funds because he thought a convicted drunk shouldn’t be a prosecutor is wrong.”

Since the indictment was announced, Duprey has made the rounds, taking the temperature of state Republicans who say that Perry’s legal problem matters less than his viability as a presidential candidate. “Almost to a person, they go, ‘Well, I didn’t think he ran a good campaign last time,’ but lots of people run two or three times in New Hampshire and they’re willing to give him a fresh look,” Duprey said. “I’m also hearing that he’s being treated really unfairly.”

Perry waived his arraignment, so he was not required to be in attendance at a Friday hearing in Austin. His attorneys and a special prosecutor will now meet to discuss a date for the next hearing. The judge on Friday said that “nothing Earth-shattering” would be happening while the Governor was in New Hampshire.

But Democrats are using his visit to try to hang Perry around the neck of the Republicans who are likely to run for U.S. Senate and Governor. “Now that the New Hampshire Republican Party has made it clear they will continue to welcome Perry to the Granite State despite his recent criminal indictment,” Democratic spokesman Bryan Lesswing said, “will Scott Brown and Walt Havenstein also embrace the disgraced Texas governor?”

Still, Duprey said that New Hampshire voters were more interested in seeing whether or not Perry could handle adversity this time around the way he could not in 2012. “His campaign here in New Hampshire last time fell well short of expectations, both his and New Hampshire voters,” Duprey said.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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